Open source or Proprietary software

Life could be so easy, we get an application install it and it works out of the box. Then we use it without reading the instructions and the end result is what we wanted. We save and use the work we produced with no compatibility issues and with the quality we envisioned. This is a perfect scenario.

Now a reality check:

  • Comercial packages (proprietary) can do what we wan’t them to do, they can have a easy install too. But there will always be compatibility issues with app A and B or we need to read the manual for something specific. And some other problems will appear in the way almost definitely.
  • But of course things can get even more dirty. Open source software either is super easy to install or super difficult, they can be super static and hard to change or very flexible.

To install these types of software it will depend mostly in what operating system you use and if it already has some binaries that you can double click and install, or if there is a repository with everything you need to have the selected program to work. And here comes the installation roller coster….  No repository for your linux distro, or the specific function isn’t compiled to your version yet, there is no binary file for your OS. These are examples to name a few. When you finally solve all the installation problems, then comes using the app you so passionately managed to install through some nights of hard work. Many open source projects are under active development and the user interface may seem unfinished and difficult to use and understand or although the application works it is cumbersome to use.

Not all is about pain, after the birth and maturation of specific open source softwares comes a stage where you see that everything is as it should have been from the beginning. Good examples are Gimp or Inkscape. You get them practically in any OS and relatively easy to install for most users. Open source software takes it’s time to develop and mature but in no way we can say that it is useless or serves only the need of the home user to play around with.

Many open source project when they reach maturity off good quality are very usable, being open source may not mean the software is free for comercial purposes so special careful should be taking when using for comercial purposes.

There is no good and bad but often open source software give me insight to what communities are building but require hands on effort to make everything work.  Commercial software are traditionally easier to use and well documented or no one will buy it and if they do buy it and it doesn’t work we complain about it.

Commercial companies like Ansys are starting to have entry level products for the starter companies to try and compete with competing software adoption. Until now I haven seen much competition from the open source communities since every one was happy in their niche, developing a solver, or a mesher but no or very bad integration. This fragmation and the lack of focus and mature hindered adoption.

A positive evolution from FreeCad that aggregates at least to projects Calculix and Netgen to create an integrated simulation environment as I described on a previous post.

A integrated approach will gain adoption and with it new users that will push interest in development and will motive community effort from individuals, universities, and others…

An also positive shift in FEM integration is CAD evolution from the traditional sketch/feature driven modelling to direct modelling. This is important since it breaks a big barrier in geometry design increasing adoption. (Google summer code project direct modelling for FreeCad)

Not all is just about freecad. A good project needs a good rival and my focus on the next weeks is in presenting you Salome.

Salome 2016
Salome 2016